Indridason has amassed quite a collection of credentials even before this, his English language debut, which is sure to bring him even more. This novel won The Glass Key Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the year when it was published. Very good, but nothing new - so have Henning Mankell, Peter Hoeg and Karin Fossum, among others. However, he also won the same award the following year, with the follow-up to this book, Lady in Green. It was not only the first time any author had ever won two years in a row, but also the first time any author had even won it twice, ever. Indridason also has the accolade of having had, during one week in April 2003, FIVE of his novels on the Icelandic Top Ten Bestseller Lists. He has also been compared to Henning Mankell - which, if true, is going to be very pleasing indeed.
It's not quite of the Mankell class, (then, what is), but Jar City (the title does become clear), is a very good crime novel indeed. It seems clear to me that, right now, the place to look for excellent crime fiction is Europe, for several reasons. One is simply the sense of freshness there is to it all, and the insight into other cultures. Another is the fact that almost all fiction from the continent (or Iceland!) is notably free of clichés of any sort; at least clichés that are held in the English crime writing world. Again, that's all true of this excellent novel, which centres around the investigation into the murder of an elderly man in his Reykjavik flat. He had almost no friends (one of them is in prison, the other disappeared 25 years ago), and he himself was accused of rape many years ago, though the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence. Although he was guilty. The only clues that the investigators find are a photograph of a young girl's grave, and a cryptic note left by the killer.
I enjoyed this book very much indeed, for many reasons. The plot is absolutely terrific, first of all. It's new, it moves nice and briskly (Indridason's excellent at moving the plot along), it's enigmatic and puzzling, and most of all there are sections of it that are very moving indeed. Jar City, as others have pointed out, is very sad at times, rather desolate and affecting. Which is a good thing, of course. It's also written excellently, with a very spare style - there's not a loose or unnecessary word. At times, coupled with the fact that it moves quickly (and is a pretty short book anyway), you may get the sense at times that the plot's a little underdeveloped in patches, but by the end this certainly isn't so. For such a slim, well-paced, sparely written novel, the plot becomes rather surprisingly, and satisfyingly complex (not, however, complicated - it never becomes convoluted, just important, and twisty.)
As I say, I enjoyed it tremendously and would recommend it to all crime fans, especially those that have already discovered the delights of European fiction, and Mankell in particular. It's excellent. Now I shall begin the wait for a second novel next year.